Almost 300 agencies in Chicago provide some form of organized tutoring to children, according to Daniel Bassill, founder and president of Cabrini Connections, a nonprofit that promotes tutoring and mentoring.

Yet, only 25 organizations applied to offer their services under the No Child Left Behind Act, and only 13, including the Chicago Public Schools, were approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Most are for-profit companies.

The application process is extensive. For example, applicants must demonstrate that students they served previously improved on state or national tests and that their programs are based on research. That tends to favor large national organizations.

“The process was too cumbersome,” says Edward E. Gordon, author of “Tutor Quest: Finding Effective Education for Children and Adults.” He describes the state board’s tutor approval process as “overkill.”

As a result, Gordon says, “The best tutors are not there.” He cites, for example, the thousands of tutors—most of them current or retired teachers—who work with children on their own or in small groups. “The majority of the quality tutoring is done by those people.”

Timothy Shanahan, a reading professor who designed CPS’s Reading Initiative, speculates that CPS will end up providing most of the additional tutoring. His reasons include parents’ familiarity with the public schools and the schools’ experience with all types of students, including bilingual and special education students.

School Board officials currently are negotiating on program particulars, including sites and schedules. Under the law, tutoring may be provided after school, on Saturdays and during the summer. Tutoring can be conducted individually or in small groups.

The Illinois State Board of Education is now accepting applications for additional providers and will release a new list this spring. For more information and an application, go to the No Child Left Behind section of ISBE’s web site.

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